Beyond The Facade: Personality Vs. Character – Which Defines You In The Face Of Adversity?

Personality Vs. Character: When The Masks Come Off

“The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only thoughts of love and joy and peace.” — Marcus Aurelius.

One moment of adversity can bring out the true colors of a person’s character and reveal the distinction between their personality and character. Picture this: two individuals with charming personalities are confronted with a daunting challenge. One crumbles under the pressure, while the other displays unwavering strength and resilience. This contrast is a powerful reminder that our authentic core is revealed not through our personality but through the depths of our character

In this article, I propose that in difficult times, it is not our personality but our character that truly defines us. While personality may influence how we interact with the world, our character determines how we respond to adversity and overcome challenges. By delving into this distinction, we can better understand what it means to possess genuine strength and integrity. So, let’s look at personality and compare it to character. Our personality is the traits, behaviors, and attitudes we display to others in our interactions. It is the sum of our accumulated life experience and upbringing. Research studies have shown that our personality changes and evolves throughout our lives. Therefore, who you were ten years ago is not the same person you are today.

Conversely, our character is related to our core values, principles, and moral compass, revealed during difficulties or challenges. Once pushed beyond our comfort zone, we become aware of our character and use these qualities to overcome the ordeal. Is this something you can identify with? Consider a challenging experience and the qualities it brought out in you.

There are different settings in which character and personality appear, so let’s explore the differences:

1. Situational vs. Consistent:
  • Personality: Here, your personality tends to be situational as it can change depending on your mood, the context of the situation, or the people involved. For instance, you might be outgoing at a party but introverted at work, funny with your friends, and serious with your family.
  • Character: Your character is more consistent and reflects your deeper values and principles across various situations. Regardless of how you express yourself to different people, your core values remain the same, and how you handle adversity remains consistent.
2. Superficial vs. Deep-rooted:
  • Personality: Your personality may seem superficial when it comes to your sense of humor, interests, or communication style. These qualities are easily observed and influenced by external factors such as societal trends or social pressure.
  • Character: In this context, character arises from your deep-rooted beliefs, morals, and convictions. They are less visible to others but uniquely shape and influence your choices and actions, even when others aren’t observing you.
3. Malleable vs. Enduring:
  • Personality: Your personality is malleable since it can change throughout your life depending on your experience, personal growth, or conscious choice. For instance, you may acquire new social skills, develop new interests, or become introverted or extroverted.
  • Character: This aspect is more stable despite external influences, challenges, or personal growth. Even though your core values and principles may evolve, your fundamental character traits remain consistent and influence many of your decisions, even in the face of change.

As a personal example, over the years, I have observed changes in my personality that others have noticed, too. I was more extroverted and outspoken; however, I’ve become more introverted and restrained nowadays. In some way, my life experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. Can you relate to this statement? Has your personality evolved, and are you comfortable with who you are today? Conversely, I wasn’t aware of my true character until I faced several life-changing experiences. During these difficulties, I became familiar with my core being and discovered the resiliency and courage to confront the problems I endured. I believe facing these challenges helped me grow and become a better person. These experiences positively shaped my character and taught me valuable lessons I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

Under Pressure: Forging Character Through Adversity

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” — Edmund Hillary.

So, how does adversity act as a stress test for character? The pressures we face expose our underlying values and motivations, even when we are unaware. Chances are, you’ve been inspired by biographies detailing the resilience of remarkable individuals. Their struggles were not in vain but stepping stones to becoming who they were meant to be. Our character is forged during the most challenging moments of our lives. We don’t know the depths of our character until we are pushed outside our comfort zone. Similarly, our choices during those difficulties reveal our true priorities and commitments. Life’s inevitable obstacles demand authenticity and integrity. Avoiding them is impossible, but navigating them with honesty shapes who we become.

Situations that reveal our character may include:

  1. Facing ethical dilemmas.
  2. Handling conflict and pressure.
  3. Overcoming personal setbacks.
  4. Responding to other people’s struggles.

See if you can identify with any of these aspects in your life and reflect on whether they have revealed your true character. Were you surprised by what you discovered during uncertain times? If you want to explore your personality and character further, I recommend identifying your values through journaling. At the same time, see if you can recognize your character strengths and weaknesses. If you’re unsure, consider asking those close to you. It’s interesting to listen to other people’s perspectives. Even though their opinions may differ from yours, it may be an opportunity to see yourself through someone else’s lens.

Building Character For A Resilient Life

“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.” — Phillips Brooks.

The differences between personality and character are evident, as we have seen. Equally, it’s vital that we proactively take steps to shape our character. Life can be challenging, and when put to the test, how we respond to those challenges falls back on the strength of our true character. For instance, the Navy Seals are trained in every conceivable situation they are likely to face in warfare, so they are familiar with the action and their response in combat. I realize we don’t lead lives like Navy Seals, but we can make choices that build consistent behavior patterns before adversity lands on our doorstep. This intentional practice reinforces our integrity and resilience and fosters personal growth and meaningful connections with others. The message is simple: Character isn’t forged in waiting; it’s built brick by brick through continuous self-improvement. When the time comes, you will be ready to meet the demands of the challenges before you. This is the essence of the teachings of Stoicism: a sense of forging character through difficulties and adversity.

Similarly, we should actively seek opportunities that challenge us to grow beyond our comfort zone. This does not mean thrill-seeking but putting ourselves in situations where we get comfortable being uncomfortable. Of equal importance is to surround ourselves with people who uphold strong values. The American motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Therefore, if we spend time with people who undermine us and are deceitful or untrustworthy, we will likely succumb to these traits. Lastly, we should embrace self-compassion and learn from our mistakes. As human beings, we are imperfect and subject to human errors like everyone else. We will make mistakes throughout our lives, and instead of being critical and self-judgmental, we should be self-compassionate, knowing we are constantly improving.

We began exploring the distinction between personality and character, two sides of the human coin. We saw how personality can crumble in adversity while character, forged in hardship, reveals our true essence. Our experiences, both joyful and challenging, shape who we are. But challenges illuminate our core values and principles, exposing the unwavering strength of our character. Just as the Navy SEALs train for every conceivable scenario, we can proactively prepare ourselves by aligning our actions with our values and seeking growth opportunities.

Remember, character isn’t something passively observed; it’s actively cultivated. Therefore, reflect on your values, embrace uncomfortable situations, surround yourself with those who inspire you, and learn from your mistakes through self-compassion. When adversity strikes, you won’t just survive; you’ll emerge stronger, more resilient, and more faithful to yourself. So, step into the fire. Embrace the challenges because your true character shines brightest in adversity.

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